Saw movies ranked: Arrow in the Head looks back over all ten of the films in the Saw franchise!
With Saw X now in theatres, we were inspired to look back over all of the previous movies and compile a list, ranking them from worst to best. You can check out our Saw Movies Ranked list below – then let us know how you would rank the movies by leaving a comment!
SAW 3D (2010)
Envisioned as the “Final Chapter”, the seventh Saw movie was released in 3D so it could throw some of the biggest, most over-the-top traps of the franchise right in the viewer’s face. Saw 3D was directed by Saw VI’s Kevin Greutert, who was forced to replace Saw V director David Hackl just two weeks before filming was to begin. A move like that is just asking for a mess, and that’s exactly what the finished film turned out to be. A mess. Finally bringing Dr. Lawrence Gordon from the first movie back for the “last one” was a good idea, but it could have been handled better. The storyline following a guy who lied about being a Jigsaw survivor as he’s put to the test feels irrelevant. The way-too-long saga of Jigsaw’s follower Mark Hoffman is finally brought to an end, but in the most underwhelming way possible. He deserved worse.
You might think the Saw franchise would be refreshed and rejuvenated after a seven year rest, with new writers crafting the story and new directors (Michael and Peter Spierig) at the helm. But Jigsaw feels like just another in the previous line of sequels, and even falls into the same traps that dragged down the series the first time around: timeline tricks, flashbacks, forgettable characters going through a bunch of traps, and a secret apprentice. Questions left unanswered at the end of Saw 3D remain unanswered, as Jigsaw goes off in its own direction with a new Jigsaw follower we had never seen or heard of before. The most memorable thing about this movie is the fact that there’s a trap involving lazers at one point.
SAW V (2008)
Now we know that Mark Hoffman is the apprentice carrying on Jigsaw’s work, and FBI agent Peter Strahm is figuring this out as well. While Hoffman and Strahm play cat and mouse through dimly lit scenes, there’s also a group of five people going through a series of tests / traps. But it’s difficult to care what’s going on with them when the real focus of the movie is Strahm’s pursuit of Hoffman and flashbacks to Hoffman being recruited by Jigsaw. Directed by David Hackl (who was production designer and/or second unit director on previous sequels), Saw V has one of the coolest moments in the franchise – Strahm giving himself a tracheotomy with a pen to survive a water trap – but otherwise feels like it’s just trudging through the motions. It’s a dull, tired entry in the franchise. Which isn’t surprising, since they were pumping these sequels out so quickly.
SAW IV (2007)
Saw II and III director Darren Lynn Bousman stuck around for this sequel, but the story came from a new team of writers who had to figure out how to continue the franchise now that Jigsaw and his apprentice Amanda were dead. One choice was obvious: Jigsaw needed a new apprentice. But some other choices were unexpected, like the fact that they still have Saw II’s Eric Matthews hanging around, six months after he appeared to be as good as dead. They also dive deeper into Jigsaw’s back story than ever before, giving him even more reasons for getting into the trap business. Terminal cancer and a car accident / failed suicide attempt weren’t the only things that drove him over the edge, there was also a tragic romance and a lost child. This is when the Saw franchise becomes a convoluted, gory soap opera, which is part of its charm as far as some fans are concerned.
SAW III (2006)
Franchise creators James Wan and Leigh Whannell still receive executive producer credits on every new Saw movie, but their creative involvement with the series really ended with Saw III. And they saved the grossest for last. Even Whannell was reportedly sickened by the sight of the traps in this one, which feels much darker and meaner than its predecessors. And includes a trap that involves rotten pig guts. While the terminally ill Jigsaw and his apprentice Amanda are forcing a surgeon to give him brain surgery, a grieving man is made to go through rooms where he has to decide whether or not to save people connected to his son’s death in a drunk driving incident (the driver, the witness who didn’t testify, the judge who gave a lenient sentence). This is a bleak, ugly movie that tells an interesting story, but it’s really not pleasant to sit through.
SAW VI (2009)
Mark Hoffman is not an interesting villain, and it’s really annoying to watch multiple movies of him slipping out of situations you hope will remove him from the franchise. But while we’re still stuck with Hoffman and we’re still being shown a ridiculous amount of flashbacks designed to answer questions we didn’t even know to ask (three movies later, we’re still getting details about what was going on in Saw III), Saw VI does manage to be a step up from a few previous installments. Director Kevin Greutert, who edited the previous films, made a movie that brings an element of fun back into the proceedings, and the screenwriters had the great idea of putting a health insurance executive from Jigsaw’s past at the center of the games being played in this one. Unfortunately, Saw VI was the least successful Saw up to this point because movie-goers were giving up on the franchise.
SPIRAL: FROM THE BOOK OF SAW (2021)
Saw II, III, and IV director Darren Lynn Bousman returned to direct this entry about a Jigsaw copycat. Sort of the Friday the 13th: A New Beginning of Saw movies. Chris Rock stars as a detective trying to figure out who keeps killing cops with elaborate traps, and his performance is at its best when he’s cracking jokes. When Rock tries to be serious and intense, it’s not quite convincing. Samuel L. Jackson plays his dad, who gets stuck in a trap along the way – and it is fun to see an icon like SLJ strung up in a Jigsaw-style device. Other than the traps and references to Jigsaw, Spiral: From the Book of Saw has little to do with other Saw movies… which was kind of refreshing at this point. There’s no reason to worry about continuity, you can just sit back and take it in as a simple, straightforward revenge movie.
SAW X (2023)
I find several of the Saw sequels tough to sit through. Not because of the violence and gore, but because they get bogged down with excessive flashbacks, timeline tricks, and soap opera-esque dramatic elements. I got so tired of that stuff, I even found the generally unpopular “spin-off” Spiral to be a refreshing entry in the franchise because it didn’t attempt to further (or further convolute) the story of John “Jigsaw” Kramer… So it’s surprising to find that Saw X was able to get me interested in another Jigsaw story – and it was able to do so by jumping back in time, being set in between the first and second movies. Before the franchise got so messy. This time Jigsaw himself is the star and we follow him as he falls prey to a medical scam, then gets revenge on the scammers by playing his usual games with them. Not only was this the most enjoyable Saw sequel in quite a while, it was also the first time I had any interest in John Kramer as a character. In the other movies I always found him to be a pompous, hypocritical ass.
SAW II (2005)
Like any self-respecting sequel, director Darren Lynn Bousman’s Saw II takes the concept introduced in the first movie and goes bigger with it. Instead of two people trapped in a room we get seven people trapped in a house, hit with nerve gas and forced to participate in a series of games that have been set up throughout the rooms so they can retrieve vials of antidote. While they’re playing their games, deeply flawed detective Eric Matthews and a SWAT team have stormed a warehouse and caught Jigsaw himself… and yet Jigsaw, who we learn more about this time around, still manages to be in control of the situation. The traps are gruesome and cringe-inducing (the syringe pit is one of the most memorable moments in the series), but there’s still a sense of fun to the sequel. It doesn’t feel as bleak and mean-spirited as future installments in the franchise would.
The Saw franchise has become so big and convoluted, you might forget that it all started with a simple little serial killer thriller. Director James Wan and screenwriter Leigh Whannell came up with an idea they could bring to the screen for very little money: two men trapped in a room with chains on their ankles and hacksaws at hand. Then they built a fascinating story around those two men. The story of the Jigsaw Killer, who forces victims to play dangerous “games” to decide their fate. Most of them don’t survive. There’s also a mother and daughter being held at gunpoint, an obsessed detective chasing the wrong suspect, and a Jigsaw survivor who is grateful for the experience. And a jaw-dropping twist. Even if no sequels had ever been made, we’d still be talking about Saw as a classic thriller along the lines of Seven.
Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/saw-movies-ranked/